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Model trains cost an arm and a leg

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Posted by steamrules on Monday, July 25, 2022 7:27 PM

I do understand the issue after 40 years enjoying the hobby. In Australia we have a limited outline and number of modellers so the production runs are much smaller and the cost goes up. A new passenger car can be $175 each and a loco DCC / sound starts at $435. I also like the USA models and shops here have been selling a Athearn Big Boy DCC / sound for $1800. It costs me about $500 for a tier 4 Gevo after postage and exchange rates as there are no dealers locally for the models.

I see too many displays that are all RTR models that while looking great are limited to what has been released RTR. I am learning 3D drawing and printing to complete some more interesting models and some pre 1900 models that are not commercially available. I see the decline in kits and scratch building a result of the highly detailed models that are available that many modellers see themselves as not being able to build or kitbash so they will buy the highly detailed models and happily pay the price. Higher prices are here to stay as modellers are paying the price for the detail and features and not spending a great deal of time to finish a single model.

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Posted by cbq9911a on Friday, June 17, 2022 9:33 PM

Model railroading has alway been expensive.  But you can save money by scrounging and by watching prices to get a good deal.  And knowing what things cost and what is a fair price.

I bought a milk car several months ago in a local road name.  The trucks had problems.  Saw the same car in a different road name - same trucks - for half price.  Bought the car and swapped out trucks; got a usable car for an extra $ 30.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, June 17, 2022 12:08 AM

groundeffects
Some projects were just painting, decaling and weathering, such as these Bachmann 70 ton and 44 Ton locos:

They look good.

Thanks for sharing your modeling.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

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Posted by groundeffects on Thursday, June 16, 2022 2:58 PM

As many have said "the hobby has always been expensive".  When I took a 15 year break from the hobby, I started racing indoor go-karts.  That was kinda expensive too, as the only tangible thing I got from racing (besides tired shoulders) was a "time sheet", a piece of paper that gave me my individual lap times from that session.  I stopped racing in 2007, and went back to model railroading. 

When I did start over I chose N scale.  As some have mentioned, N Scale is about half the cost of HO.  Yes, reading the car data can be hard, but it's not a make or break part of the hobby to me.  During Covid I was home for nearly 18 months and money was a bit scarce, so I spent the money I did have on scratchbuilding projects, or buying some decoders and upgrading many of my existing DC engines to DCC. Some projects were just painting, decaling and weathering, such as these Bachmann 70 ton and 44 Ton locos:SP engines

 Yep, it's possible to keep it on the cheap.

Jeff

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Posted by groundeffects on Thursday, June 16, 2022 2:58 PM

Deleted

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Posted by floridaflyer on Thursday, June 16, 2022 12:45 PM

Traded once or twice weekly golf for model trains in 2006, lot less frustration and I'm thousands ahead. Did buy most locos new with DCC but almost all rolling stock was from the dealers at train shows in Central Florida. Usually in the $5 to $8 range

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Thursday, June 16, 2022 11:14 AM

FRRYKid

 

 
caldreamer

Go to N scale.  Locomotives and rolling stock are about half the cost of HO and you get four time the railroad in the same space.

 

 

However, there are quite a few of us out there that would have a great challenge trying to read dimensional data that small. The small print is especially challenging when you piece dimensional data to match prototypes.

 

One of the reasons I switched to S scale.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by John-NYBW on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 10:33 AM

mobilman44

I'm not surprised this thread continues on, with a plethora of gripes but few solutions.  

The solution is to buy what you can afford. Nothing says you have to buy a DCC system, with several wireless throttles and a fleet of locos with factory sound. If you can afford that great. If you can't, you can still enjoy the hobby to the same degree it was 50 or more years ago. A few DC locos and some moderately priced rolling stock kits and you're in business. Most of the expensive stuff are things that weren't available to modelers in earliers years. I've already mentioned DCC. We also have RTR rolling stock, pre-built structures, state of the art lighting systems, etc. All these things come with a premium price but none of them are necessities. Budget how much you want to spend on the hobby and live within that. You can still have a lot of fun that way.

My first set was a Marx, cause my parents just could not afford a Lionel or Flyer.  So when I was 12, I got a paper route (Chicago Herald American) and delivered papers SEVEN days a week just to afford a 5 car Lionel 0-4-0 switcher set.  I recall in the late '50s that Lionel 64xx series box cars were $5.00 - a price that was equal to 1/2 days work for many folks.

In 1960, I moved to HO, and thanks to Athearn BB kits, Atlas track, and an MRC powerpack, I began to build an empire "on the cheap". 

Fast forward to the 2000s, which was when I could finally afford the P2K and some BLI Locos and it wasn't until 2008 that I could afford DCC stuff - spending $2k to do so. 

My point is, few folks can afford to jump into the hobby with both feet all at once.  And, its always been that way - which is something I think some of us forgot.

I think you and I have said about the same thing in different ways. If you choose, you can spend your kids' inheritance on the hobby (not necessarily a bad idea) or you can spend more modestly. In that regard, this hobby is no different than the choices we make for all the consumer products we buy. I could have continued to live in my paid off house in the city but I wanted to move out of the city when I retired and I built a house that cost roughly three times what my paid off house was worth. If you can afford it, you can buy a high end luxury car or you can settle for something a little more economical. Buy what you want and can afford, but I don't see any sense in complaining about how expensive things are. 

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Posted by cats think well of me on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 11:54 AM

Yep, it's an expensive hobby, but so are a lot of others. I do wish things were not so expensive at times, but the way things are is that prices are going to be high, especially when we all demand highly detailed, ready to run models with sound, DCC, smoke, and other features.  I've found bargains here and there on things and take advantage when I can. I love finding Intermountain, Branchline, P2K, Red Caboose, and other brands of freight car kits that still sell for under $20 each. I've also been okay with spending significantly to have certain models or upgrade said models to my liking. I love building craftsman building kits though simple plastic ones go together quite quickly and look great with some paint and weathering, but I like craftsman kits. Laser cut wood kits aren't much more work and are a lot of fun to build. Plus do not take long. I spent a lot on a brass steam engine to improve the running characteristics and add sound though I could have gotten many plastic or even diecast models for that same amount of money, but I have an NYC Hudson I enjoy a lot that brings a smile to my face whenever I run it. I kind of lucked out 6-years ago when the owner of a now-defunct LHS sold me an NCE Power Cab starter set for about half of retail and it gave me the ability to operate test tracks and now a layout with DCC! I will add to it in time but as I only operate one loco by myself, I've no need currently. The hobby can definitely be expensive but there are ways to save money out there. I do think if we could no longer paint the huge basement empire as the pinnacle of model railroading excellence, though it is quite excellent, and instead show how spare room layouts or shelf layouts for a couple operators to run a few trains is quite excellent, plus not every model has to have DCC and sound. I enjoy running my DC models in silence just as much as my sound equipped toys. Though I enjoy my brass models immensely, I also enjoy excellently done plastic models too. 

Alvie

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 10:55 AM

Just got into DCC  and sound about 3 years ago, my power set up was around  $500, three throttles and 4 ut-5 and a bunch of cables, a used DCS51 which was $200 of the total but included an MTH DCC sound diesel. Then you add around $200 in frog juicers, thats it. Now if you want to talk DCC and sound enginges I have added, add $1000 but that is for 9 engines,  5 diesels and 4 steam. Included in this list are two Walthers NW2 DCC and sound that I preordered for less than $300.

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Posted by mobilman44 on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 6:03 AM

I'm not surprised this thread continues on, with a plethora of gripes but few solutions.  But the thing is, this "situation" has been around since the beginning of the hobby.  For me, that was the mid 1950s. 

My first set was a Marx, cause my parents just could not afford a Lionel or Flyer.  So when I was 12, I got a paper route (Chicago Herald American) and delivered papers SEVEN days a week just to afford a 5 car Lionel 0-4-0 switcher set.  I recall in the late '50s that Lionel 64xx series box cars were $5.00 - a price that was equal to 1/2 days work for many folks.

In 1960, I moved to HO, and thanks to Athearn BB kits, Atlas track, and an MRC powerpack, I began to build an empire "on the cheap". 

Fast forward to the 2000s, which was when I could finally afford the P2K and some BLI Locos and it wasn't until 2008 that I could afford DCC stuff - spending $2k to do so. 

My point is, few folks can afford to jump into the hobby with both feet all at once.  And, its always been that way - which is something I think some of us forgot.

  

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

Living in southeast Texas, formerly modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

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Posted by FRRYKid on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 2:44 AM

caldreamer

Go to N scale.  Locomotives and rolling stock are about half the cost of HO and you get four time the railroad in the same space.

However, there are quite a few of us out there that would have a great challenge trying to read dimensional data that small. The small print is especially challenging when you piece dimensional data to match prototypes.

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."
Brain waves can power an electric train. RealFact #832 from Snapple.
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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, June 13, 2022 5:55 PM

southernpacificgs4

I saw with some months of delay the October 2021 new product announcement from Walthers and I was surprised by the price of a particular passenger car.

The Pullman-Standard Bi-Level commuter cars.

For a standard car the price is 89.98 dollars and for a lighted cars it is 99.98 dollars.

If you want to have a decent train with minimum 5 cars this will cost you 499.90 dollars in the lighted version and this without a locomotive.

So, I called my local hobby shop and asked what would be the total cost to buy 5 Pullman-Standard Bi-Level commuter cars. The owner said, "I will take your right arm and left leg". Well, there you have it.  Wink

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by caldreamer on Monday, June 13, 2022 5:09 PM

Go to N scale.  Locomotives and rolling stock are about half the cost of HO and you get four time the railroad in the same space.

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Posted by BATMAN on Monday, June 13, 2022 3:33 PM

I am far too young to answer this question, but let's look at some real-world examples. First, we all have the Atlas station. When did it come out and how much was it then and how much is it now?

 

Next the Walthers three-stall roundhouse. When did it come out and how much was it then and how much is it now?

 

Were talking MSRP. 

 

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1/videos 

You can never ever out-train poor nutrition.

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Posted by John-NYBW on Monday, June 13, 2022 2:38 PM

Doughless

Its not really possible to compare the price of somehting now vs then, because products tend to change significantly over time.  Compare a new model train now to the model train that was sold 50 years ago and you'll notice a product that has many more features and detail baked into the product.

What is the equivilent of the Athearn Blue Box product....the entry level stuff like Atlas Trainman, Walthers Mainline (or is it Trainline), and Athearn Roundhouse?

 

I have to disagree. There are many products that are exactly the same as what was sold back in the 70s and 80s. Structure kits for example. Even if sold by a different company, they are made from the same molds. Magnuson kits are now sold by Scale Structures LTD but are the same resin kits. As for Athearn blue box kits, I would argue that Accurail has filled that void and produces a basic freight car kit comparable to the blue box kits. Then there are the old staples like the Kadee #5 coupler or Caboose Industry ground throws. In a previous post I gave the example of the Atlas yellow box DC locos which I believe are still being produced and I doubt have changed much at all from a couple generations ago. 

There are lots of products in model railroading that are either the same or comparable to what was offered 40-50 years ago and when you compare those prices, they are still selling for roughly the same inflation adjusted price as 40-50 years ago. The hobby is not more exensive. What has become expensive are the high tech products that weren't an option back then. 

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Posted by Attuvian1 on Monday, June 13, 2022 1:56 PM

richhotrain
maxman
richhotrain
And my wife's new Lincoln SUV will agree with both of us. If you stop the vehicle and leave it in Drive with your foot on the brake, for example at a stoplight, the engine shuts off to conserve gas until you release the brake and the vehicle starts up again. Did I mention the 22-way seat massager? Windshield wipers that go on at the first hint of rain? Adaptive cruise control with automatic lane centering? Blind spot detection? Pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking?
  

No, the wife was part of the trade-in. The concierge, Bubbles, is my new life partner.

 

You guys are terrible.  (I can hear my mother saying it.)  Laugh Laugh Bow

John

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, June 13, 2022 12:52 PM

maxman

 

 
richhotrain
And my wife's new Lincoln SUV will agree with both of us. If you stop the vehicle and leave it in Drive with your foot on the brake, for example at a stoplight, the engine shuts off to conserve gas until you release the brake and the vehicle starts up again. Did I mention the 22-way seat massager? Windshield wipers that go on at the first hint of rain? Adaptive cruise control with automatic lane centering? Blind spot detection? Pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking?

 

All of those new things, but does it have the same old woman driver?

 

No, the wife was part of the trade-in. The concierge, Bubbles, is my new life partner.

Alton Junction

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Posted by Doughless on Monday, June 13, 2022 12:14 PM

SeeYou190

 

 
Doughless
Automobiles come with power options, airbags, back up cameras, fuel efficient engines....the products are not comparable to the cars of the 1970s, 1980s.

 

I remember buying my first new car in 1988. Air conditioning was an expensive "rich man's" option back then. I think it added about $1,500.00 to our $13,000.00 car.

I'll wager you cannot even find a new car at a Florida dealership that does not have air conditioning now.

-Kevin

 

My first new car was a 1987 VW Golf.  Had crank windows and manual locks, an underpowered 1.8L? motor.  It had A/C.  I don't remember if it had cruise control. It was a pretty basic model that cost $8,700....still cheaper than a Civic or Corrolla, IIRC.

In 2018...30 years later....I bought a 2018 MAZDA3 with a 185HP 2.5L, power windows, locks, seats...cruise...leather(ette) heated seats...backup camera...18 inch wheels for $17,500.  Only twice the money.  It was a steal.  

 

- Douglas

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, June 13, 2022 12:02 PM

Doughless
Automobiles come with power options, airbags, back up cameras, fuel efficient engines....the products are not comparable to the cars of the 1970s, 1980s.

I remember buying my first new car in 1988. Air conditioning was an expensive "rich man's" option back then. I think it added about $1,500.00 to our $13,000.00 car.

I'll wager you cannot even find a new car at a Florida dealership that does not have air conditioning now.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

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Posted by maxman on Monday, June 13, 2022 11:24 AM

richhotrain
And my wife's new Lincoln SUV will agree with both of us. If you stop the vehicle and leave it in Drive with your foot on the brake, for example at a stoplight, the engine shuts off to conserve gas until you release the brake and the vehicle starts up again. Did I mention the 22-way seat massager? Windshield wipers that go on at the first hint of rain? Adaptive cruise control with automatic lane centering? Blind spot detection? Pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking?

All of those new things, but does it have the same old woman driver?

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, June 13, 2022 10:52 AM

Doughless

Its not really possible to compare the price of somehting now vs then, because products tend to change significantly over time. 

How do you compare the price of that product to the price of a (not) comparable product from 40-50 years ago?

Automobiles come with power options, airbags, back up cameras, fuel efficient engines....the products are not comparable to the cars of the 1970s, 1980s.

Amen. I could not agree more. And my wife's new Lincoln SUV will agree with both of us. If you stop the vehicle and leave it in Drive with your foot on the brake, for example at a stoplight, the engine shuts off to conserve gas until you release the brake and the vehicle starts up again. Did I mention the 22-way seat massager? Windshield wipers that go on at the first hint of rain? Adaptive cruise control with automatic lane centering? Blind spot detection? Pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking? That's just for starters.

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by BATMAN on Monday, June 13, 2022 10:29 AM

rrebell
just wanted to know how you did over the 50 years.

I started in 1971 at age 14 and had to get my Dad to open a trading account in his name as I was too young. If you have the patience to stick it out and the interest in it to put in the time you can have a very comfortable second half of your life. History and economics go hand in hand and like the weather, they both keep repeating themselves. Eat a donut every day or eat an apple every day, it is a choice we are free to make, decades later you will see the result of the choices you make.

 

 

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1/videos 

You can never ever out-train poor nutrition.

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Posted by Doughless on Monday, June 13, 2022 10:08 AM

Its not really possible to compare the price of somehting now vs then, because products tend to change significantly over time.  Compare a new model train now to the model train that was sold 50 years ago and you'll notice a product that has many more features and detail baked into the product.

What is the equivilent of the Athearn Blue Box product....the entry level stuff like Atlas Trainman, Walthers Mainline (or is it Trainline), and Athearn Roundhouse?

They are assembled.  Have more detailed added.  Have better paint jobs and printed lettering, metal wheels, generaly come with knuckle couplers, etc.

How do you compare the price of that product to the price of a (not) comparable product from 40-50 years ago?

Automobiles come with power options, airbags, back up cameras, fuel efficient engines....the products are not comparable to the cars of the 1970s, 1980s.

If you want to say that the "richer" people have dominated the hobby to where the producers are building nothing but (what would have been thought of back in the day as) high end side of the product line, so be it.  But the product being produced is still different than what we would compare it to. 

Cheap foreign labor allowed this evolution to occur (as with many things) and stuff was likely underpriced for a long time, until such time as production costs become not so cheap anymore.  Maybe it will circle back to where we can only choose from different kits with molded on details (fine with me if we did).  When that happens, then we can compare prices better.

- Douglas

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Posted by rrebell on Monday, June 13, 2022 10:05 AM

BATMAN

 

 
Attuvian1
the end result for both us armchair economists and Jimmy Johnson, is pretty much the same and can perhaps be expressed in one word: Maybe.  Or, Hmmm.

 

LaughLaughLaugh

If not for the uninformed speculation of these forums there would not be much to keep us entertained.Laugh It takes little effort to find out why the price of lumber is going through the roof, however, there are lots of opinions on this forum as to why it is with no basis on fact. It helps keep me grounded reading this stuff though. Knowing these same people can vote helps me plan my financial future. Just an observation of a guy that has been trading stock for over fifty years, a Government can harm the economy in short order, but it has to heal itself.

 

 

So since investing is a big part of my life, just wanted to know how you did over the 50 years. Even though I am near 70, I never invested in the markets till 2005 but went the bond route then with a punch investment or two. This has done me well, still have my original investment (but in different forms) and lived on it for all this time (and added to it as I sold the last of my real estate investments 5 years ago).

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, June 13, 2022 9:57 AM

FRRYKid
Actually I saw an article saying that lumber is going down in price due to the high interest rates, FWIW.

I have worked at Home Depot nine months now, in that time lumber has gone down, up, down, up, and is now even higher than when I started for plywood. Studs are less expensive now.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, June 13, 2022 5:35 AM

Conclusion: Model trains cost an arm and a leg.  Cool

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by Attuvian1 on Monday, June 13, 2022 3:01 AM

BATMAN

It helps keep me grounded reading this stuff though. Knowing these same people can vote helps me plan my financial future. Just an observation of a guy that has been trading stock for over fifty years, a Government can harm the economy in short order, but it has to heal itself.

Bow  (I guess I stayed on the train for one more stop . . .)

John

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Posted by FRRYKid on Monday, June 13, 2022 12:41 AM

Actually I saw an article saying that lumber is going down in price due to the high interest rates, FWIW.

"The only stupid question is the unasked question."
Brain waves can power an electric train. RealFact #832 from Snapple.

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